Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 13, 2008

Commentary of the Day

Raj C., on Jennifer Rubin:

Add it [America's response to the situation in Georgia] to the list of conservative policy failures. Bush inherited a record surplus, moral authority to lead the world, a global rush toward liberalization and democracy, and peace with Russia. Gone. Gone. Gone and Gone. Well played, right wingers!

I must admit that I like Bush’s use of the military to deliver humanitarian aid. Artful. Would that he were this inventive before hostilities broke out.

RE: Obama’s vacation. He’s right to keep quite at this stage. Obama has no power over foreign policy, and he is wise not to be seen as undermining or criticizing the president during an international crisis. What would be the point in sending a message to the Russians that might conflict with Bush’s? Why show any daylight? How could that possibly be in America’s best interests, or Obama’s, particularly when the clock is running on Bush’s administration?

Funny, isn’t it, that Obama’s actually building his lead while he’s on vacation? McCain can’t even move the needle when he has the stage to himself. The Real Clear Politics average now has Obama plus 5. He’s pulled ahead of McCain in Alaska! And his favorables gap over McCain has widened. Still a little early to say whether Georgia has had any impact, but so far, so good.

Question: If we go to war with Russia, would that be World War V? I’ve lost count.

Raj C., on Jennifer Rubin:

Add it [America's response to the situation in Georgia] to the list of conservative policy failures. Bush inherited a record surplus, moral authority to lead the world, a global rush toward liberalization and democracy, and peace with Russia. Gone. Gone. Gone and Gone. Well played, right wingers!

I must admit that I like Bush’s use of the military to deliver humanitarian aid. Artful. Would that he were this inventive before hostilities broke out.

RE: Obama’s vacation. He’s right to keep quite at this stage. Obama has no power over foreign policy, and he is wise not to be seen as undermining or criticizing the president during an international crisis. What would be the point in sending a message to the Russians that might conflict with Bush’s? Why show any daylight? How could that possibly be in America’s best interests, or Obama’s, particularly when the clock is running on Bush’s administration?

Funny, isn’t it, that Obama’s actually building his lead while he’s on vacation? McCain can’t even move the needle when he has the stage to himself. The Real Clear Politics average now has Obama plus 5. He’s pulled ahead of McCain in Alaska! And his favorables gap over McCain has widened. Still a little early to say whether Georgia has had any impact, but so far, so good.

Question: If we go to war with Russia, would that be World War V? I’ve lost count.

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The Other Georgias

This morning, President Bush announced that a U.S. Air Force C-17 was on its way to embattled Georgia to deliver humanitarian aid. “This mission will be vigorous and ongoing,” he said. He also announced he is sending Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Tbilisi to “personally convey America’s unwavering support for Georgia’s democratic government.”

But will the Georgian government be there to greet her? Minutes before the dramatic statement, Steve Harrigan of Fox News reported that Russian forces had advanced to within twelve miles of Tbilisi and that the road between their positions and the Georgian capital was undefended. Earlier reports indicated that the Russians controlled Georgia’s airspace. In short, President Bush is, once again, relying on the Kremlin’s good will.

Mr. Bush’s moves today were the best that could have been made under the deteriorating circumstances. Yet the circumstances would have been much more favorable to the Georgians and to us had the White House taken decisive action on Friday, when the Russian invasion began. Instead, the President, while not learning beach volleyball from Misty May in the Chinese capital, issued words that the Kremlin of course ignored.

Long before his outing at the Olympics, the President should have made it clear to Russian leaders that they would face great consequences should they use force against Georgia. Instead, he continued his evenhanded policy that predictably emboldened Moscow.

Given the current unfavorable “correlation of forces,” the President might end up acquiescing in the Russian occupation of previously undisputed Georgian territory or perhaps accepting an even worse outcome. It may take years or even decades to unwind the damage done in the past few days. There are, unfortunately, few scenarios that we can rule out.

Yet as we undertake the defense of Georgia, we need to think about the other Georgias-specifically Ukraine and Taiwan. Each of these democracies is being threatened by a neighboring big-power aggressor–and in each case the United States has yet to make firm commitments to its defense. That’s because the Bush administration has yet to abandon Secretary Rice’s fundamentally flawed notion that the United States should try to manage the world with the help of the other great powers, especially Russia and China.

So let’s change course and make sure there is only one Georgia this year.

This morning, President Bush announced that a U.S. Air Force C-17 was on its way to embattled Georgia to deliver humanitarian aid. “This mission will be vigorous and ongoing,” he said. He also announced he is sending Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Tbilisi to “personally convey America’s unwavering support for Georgia’s democratic government.”

But will the Georgian government be there to greet her? Minutes before the dramatic statement, Steve Harrigan of Fox News reported that Russian forces had advanced to within twelve miles of Tbilisi and that the road between their positions and the Georgian capital was undefended. Earlier reports indicated that the Russians controlled Georgia’s airspace. In short, President Bush is, once again, relying on the Kremlin’s good will.

Mr. Bush’s moves today were the best that could have been made under the deteriorating circumstances. Yet the circumstances would have been much more favorable to the Georgians and to us had the White House taken decisive action on Friday, when the Russian invasion began. Instead, the President, while not learning beach volleyball from Misty May in the Chinese capital, issued words that the Kremlin of course ignored.

Long before his outing at the Olympics, the President should have made it clear to Russian leaders that they would face great consequences should they use force against Georgia. Instead, he continued his evenhanded policy that predictably emboldened Moscow.

Given the current unfavorable “correlation of forces,” the President might end up acquiescing in the Russian occupation of previously undisputed Georgian territory or perhaps accepting an even worse outcome. It may take years or even decades to unwind the damage done in the past few days. There are, unfortunately, few scenarios that we can rule out.

Yet as we undertake the defense of Georgia, we need to think about the other Georgias-specifically Ukraine and Taiwan. Each of these democracies is being threatened by a neighboring big-power aggressor–and in each case the United States has yet to make firm commitments to its defense. That’s because the Bush administration has yet to abandon Secretary Rice’s fundamentally flawed notion that the United States should try to manage the world with the help of the other great powers, especially Russia and China.

So let’s change course and make sure there is only one Georgia this year.

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What Do They Have To Say Now?

The Wall Street Journal editors offer sage advice on the Bush administration’s options in wake of the cease-fire in Georgia:

But there are forceful diplomatic and economic responses at its disposal. Expelling Russia from the G-8 group of democracies, as John McCain has suggested, is one. Barring Russia’s long desired entry into the World Trade Organization is another. Russian leaders should also be told that their financial assets held abroad aren’t off limits to sanction. And Moscow should know that the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi on the Black Sea are in jeopardy. A country that starts a war on the weekend the Beijing Olympics began doesn’t deserve such an honor.

The Georgian people also deserve U.S. support. One way to demonstrate that would be a “Tbilisi airlift,” ferrying military and humanitarian supplies to the Georgian capital, which is currently cut off by Russian troops from its Black Sea port. Secretary of State Rice or Defense Secretary Robert Gates should be in one of the first planes. After the fighting ends, the U.S. can lead the recovery effort. And since the Russians are demanding his ouster, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili deserves U.S. support too. Moscow wants a puppet leader in Tbilisi, and U.S. officials are playing into Valdimir Putin’s hands with their media whispers that this is all Mr. Saakashvili’s fault.

The Bush administration has not covered itself in glory to date, but time remains, as the Journal’s editors put it, to avoid a “Carter-esque” conclusion to this episode and the Bush presidency as a whole.

Still, this administration is leaving one way or another in a matter of months. Just as the American people assessed the relative abilities, judgment and proposals of the candidates in 1980 as the Russians then exercised their territorial ambitions (really, if you hang around long enough everything repeats itself), the voters now should size up this year’s two presidential candidates. If Iraq, Iran, and North Korea were not enough, a resurgent Russia will be waiting for the next president. It behooves the voters to figure out which one is up for the job.

And that brings us to a final point: can you imagine the press reaction if a Republican president (or even a candidate) hid from direct questioning from the media for five days during an acute international crisis? The media is still too enamored of The One to mention it, but Obama’s reclusiveness is odd in the extreme and deeply troubling. Isn’t he capable of directly engaging the American people except via a stream of ever-migrating written statements prepared by his gang of 300 advisors? It really is time for Barack Obama to step out from behind the palm trees and start answering tough questions (e.g. Why did you equate victim and victimizer as your first reaction? What precisely would you do now?). It is not becoming of a presidential nominee to go to the movies while war erupts and our international credibility teeters on the brink of utter collapse. It’s certainly not inspiring confidence in his ability to navigate during an international crisis. Voters should take note.

The Wall Street Journal editors offer sage advice on the Bush administration’s options in wake of the cease-fire in Georgia:

But there are forceful diplomatic and economic responses at its disposal. Expelling Russia from the G-8 group of democracies, as John McCain has suggested, is one. Barring Russia’s long desired entry into the World Trade Organization is another. Russian leaders should also be told that their financial assets held abroad aren’t off limits to sanction. And Moscow should know that the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi on the Black Sea are in jeopardy. A country that starts a war on the weekend the Beijing Olympics began doesn’t deserve such an honor.

The Georgian people also deserve U.S. support. One way to demonstrate that would be a “Tbilisi airlift,” ferrying military and humanitarian supplies to the Georgian capital, which is currently cut off by Russian troops from its Black Sea port. Secretary of State Rice or Defense Secretary Robert Gates should be in one of the first planes. After the fighting ends, the U.S. can lead the recovery effort. And since the Russians are demanding his ouster, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili deserves U.S. support too. Moscow wants a puppet leader in Tbilisi, and U.S. officials are playing into Valdimir Putin’s hands with their media whispers that this is all Mr. Saakashvili’s fault.

The Bush administration has not covered itself in glory to date, but time remains, as the Journal’s editors put it, to avoid a “Carter-esque” conclusion to this episode and the Bush presidency as a whole.

Still, this administration is leaving one way or another in a matter of months. Just as the American people assessed the relative abilities, judgment and proposals of the candidates in 1980 as the Russians then exercised their territorial ambitions (really, if you hang around long enough everything repeats itself), the voters now should size up this year’s two presidential candidates. If Iraq, Iran, and North Korea were not enough, a resurgent Russia will be waiting for the next president. It behooves the voters to figure out which one is up for the job.

And that brings us to a final point: can you imagine the press reaction if a Republican president (or even a candidate) hid from direct questioning from the media for five days during an acute international crisis? The media is still too enamored of The One to mention it, but Obama’s reclusiveness is odd in the extreme and deeply troubling. Isn’t he capable of directly engaging the American people except via a stream of ever-migrating written statements prepared by his gang of 300 advisors? It really is time for Barack Obama to step out from behind the palm trees and start answering tough questions (e.g. Why did you equate victim and victimizer as your first reaction? What precisely would you do now?). It is not becoming of a presidential nominee to go to the movies while war erupts and our international credibility teeters on the brink of utter collapse. It’s certainly not inspiring confidence in his ability to navigate during an international crisis. Voters should take note.

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Sullivan Stretches . . .

I wanted to address some of the points made by Andrew Sullivan in his response to my piece yesterday.

1. Andrew writes that I “huff and puff” over his comparing Russia invading Georgia with the U.S. invading Iraq and that I “haul out” Andrew’s “own passionate defenses for war as if it’s proof I’m off my rocker.”

Actually, I cited Andrew’s past pieces to demonstrate how dramatically and radically his views have shifted and to remind people that whatever Sullivan believes at the time, he speaks with absolute certitude, with arguments ranging from passionate and intelligent to extreme and careless. Quoting Andrew back to himself was not, by my lights, evidence that he’s “off his rocker.” That Andrew would characterize things that way says more about him, I think, than it does about me.

2. The degree to which President Bush seems to dominate and distort Andrew’s thinking is noteworthy. For example, Russia invaded a lawful, self-governing, pro-American government–and Andrew writes, “I was a little too mad at Bush to express adequate sympathy for the plight of the Georgians at first.” Exactly why Russia’s invasion of Georgia is grounds for fury at George W. Bush isn’t really clear.

3. Despite the fact that Andrew’s views today are fundamentally at odds with his views several years ago, Sullivan can only say, “I was deceived and feel terrible responsibility for my naivete.”

This is a recurring theme. Andrew does not say he was wrong; rather, he says that President Bush deceived him. Andrew, in other words, was guilty of being too trusting. Remember the comedian Flip Wilson? “The devil made me do it”? Andrew’s version (call it a sua culpa) is “The President made me do it.”

4. According to Andrew, “The US invaded [Iraq] without the critical second UN resolution, putting the US outside of the kind of international legitimacy in a way not totally unlike Russia.”

For the record, here’s what Andrew said (on March 18, 2003) about the second UN resolution at the time:

Tony Blair’s speech to the House of Commons this afternoon . . . outlines in excruciating detail exactly what happened in the last couple of weeks. There is no question that it was France that scuppered any deal, any ultimatum, any attempt to get U.N. support for final pressure on Saddam. Not Cheney. Not Wolfowitz. Not Bush. France. [Sullivan then quotes extensively from Prime Minister Blair's speech.] The failure of diplomacy is not the Bush administration’s fault. And the attempt to make that argument must deal with Blair’s chronology. The people of this country see it. It’s the partisan elites who are still blind to reality. [emphasis added]

And the day before, Sullivan quoted Ann Clwyd writing this in the Times of London:

I do not have a monopoly on wisdom or morality. But I know one thing. This evil, fascist regime must come to an end. With or without the help of the Security Council, and with or without the backing of the Labour Party in the House of Commons tonight.

Andrew went on to add:

This would be true even if Iraq were not already in violation of umpteen U.N. resolutions. It would be true even if Saddam didn’t pose a genuine threat to the region and, via terrorists, to the West itself. How much more morally indefensible is appeasement when we also have complete international authority to do what must be done? I think we will look back in the future and not ask, as so many now are, how it was that diplomacy didn’t get unanimity on this matter. We will look back and see the moral obtuseness of Chirac and Putin and Schroder [sic] and Carter and feel nothing but contempt for them, and their preference for state terror over the responsibilities of the free world. That’s why I felt enormous pride tonight in the stand being taken by Blair and Bush. The president’s speech was measured, firm, just. Blair’s political risks – in order to do what he believes is plainly right – will confirm him in history as a great prime minister, the conscience of his party, and the leader of his country. I say that before this war begins, because the cause is just whatever vicissitudes of conflict await us, and there will be plenty of people who will make this point if and when the war succeeds. But the truth is, regardless of what happens next, we know something important about the two major leaders of the free world right now. Neither man has blinked at evil. The only question in the next forty-eight hours is whether evil will blink before it is destroyed. [emphasis added]

5. As for the argument that failing to secure a second UN resolution prior to war undermined America’s legitimacy: President Clinton’s director of Central Intelligence, James Woolsey, has pointed out that, in more than a half-century, the U.N. has sanctioned only two wars out of the 100-plus wars that have been fought. These were the first Gulf War, and the Korean War–with the latter an anomaly, since the Soviet Union boycotted the Security Council vote. Presumably Andrew does not believe that all the wars that have occurred without the blessing of the U.N. were illegitimate and akin to Russia’s invasion of Georgia.

The proposition that because the second U.N. resolution failed due to (in Andrew’s words) “the moral obtuseness of Chirac and Putin and Schroder,” the liberation of Iraq is “not totally unlike” what Russia did to Georgia is an example of Andrew reaching for strained arguments in an effort to try to justify his current, completely different position.

6. Sullivan writes, “I have come to see, by force of the evidence, that some, if not all, in the Bush administration knew that the WMD case was paper-thin.”

In fact, the evidence makes the opposite case. I base that judgment in part on the findings of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s bipartisan Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq, and the Silberman-Robb Report (The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction), both of which shatter the claim made by Sullivan. In fact, the latter said this:

As problematic as the October 2002 NIE was, it was not the Community’s biggest analytic failure on Iraq. Even more misleading was the river of intelligence that flowed from the CIA to top policymakers over long periods of time — in the President’s Daily Brief (PDB) and in its more widely distributed companion, the Senior Executive Intelligence Brief (SEIB). These daily reports were, if anything, more alarmist and less nuanced than the NIE.” (emphasis added)

And this:

The Intelligence Community’s Iraq assessments were … riddled with errors. Contrary to what some defenders of the Intelligence Community have since asserted, these errors were not the result of a few harried months in 2002. Most of the fundamental errors were made and communicated to policymakers well before the now-infamous NIE of October 2002, and were not corrected in the months between the NIE and the start of the war. They were not isolated or random failings. Iraq had been an intelligence challenge at the forefront of U.S. attention for over a decade. It was a known adversary that had already fought one war with the United States and seemed increasingly likely to fight another. But, after ten years of effort, the Intelligence Community still had no good intelligence on the status of Iraq’s weapons programs.

Andrew might also want to consult this column by Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor of the Washington Post, which eviscerates what he calls the “phony ‘Bush lied’ story line.” That Iraq possessed WMD was a view shared by Democrats as well as Republicans; by the U.N. as well as the U.S.; by American intelligence agencies and by intelligence agencies of almost every nation that looked into this matter.

7. About the Iraq war, Sullivan writes:

When you add to this [Sullivan's contention that the Bush Administration wanted to do to the Arabs what Putin is now doing to his neighbors: teach them a lesson about raw power] the deployment of torture and abuse of countless innocent Iraqis as a weapon, the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis, the displacement of millions more, the ethnic cleansing the US presided over for years, it does become harder and harder to see the unquestionable moral superiority of the US. Certainly, it seems much more questionable than ever before in my lifetime.

It seems to me the Iraq war makes precisely the opposite point. It was animated in part–not wholly, but in part–by a humanitarian impulse, which Sullivan understood at the time. And the truth is that we were, as the New York Times’s John Burns has said, greeted as liberators. The problem is that for a variety of reasons–having largely but not exclusively to do with a massive mistake in the Phase IV planning by the Bush Administration–Iraq turned violent and chaotic. But the President, to his great credit, embraced the surge, which is in the process of transforming Iraq. It is now a free, self-governing nation, an ally of America, and the place which gave rise to an anti-jihadist movement within the Muslim world. It is also the place where al Qaeda, having declared it the central battleground in the war on terror, has been routed. The same thing appears to be happening to the Mahdi Army and the Shiite militias. And Iran’s influence is clearly waning.

Former Ambassador Peter Galbraith said that Saddam’s regime was, along with Pol Pot’s in Cambodia, one of the two cruelest in the last half of the 20th century. The fact that the people of Iraq have been freed from almost unimaginable oppression and are now–after extremely difficult and painful years–on a path to a decent society ought to make Sullivan proud of his country, not call into question its “moral superiority.”

The fact is that America, instead of having bled and fled Iraq, fought and stayed. We continued to fight the good fight. The men and women of the United States military and their families have borne the burden; more than 4,000 have died in this effort and many more have been badly injured and maimed. And to suggest that the enormousness of their sacrifice was for a less than noble cause–and even an ignoble one–is, I think, deeply mistaken and even offensive.

8. For Andrew, almost everything comes back to the Bush Administration’s policies on interrogation and water-boarding, Guantanamo Bay, rendition, and whether the Geneva Conventions ought to apply to non-state actors and terrorists.

Jack Goldsmith, the former head of the Office of Legal Counsel, is an example of a person who has made a highly critical but reasonable assessment of the Bush Administration’s policies. His book The Terror Presidency offers a nuanced, learned analysis of these issues and places them within a historical context. Goldsmith is fair-minded in presenting the arguments for and against various policies. This kind of subtlety and sophistication is completely missing in Andrew’s critiques. That doesn’t mean the Bush Administration was right on all these issues; as I have said before, I think in some important respects we made the wrong decision. But Andrew allows this to so cloud his judgment that he now states that because of the Bush Administration he now doubts “the core moral decency of the US” and believes that “the question of moral equivalence [between the United States and Russia] becomes a live one.”

That Sullivan has reached the point that his attitudes toward America now sound like those that routinely emerge from the fever swamps of the Left is a shame; and for him to say that “this administration has done it to me” is a transparent dodge. Sullivan’s fundamental worldview has changed, as any fair reading of his past writings demonstrate, and for reasons that go far beyond George W. Bush.

One can only image what the Andrew Sullivan of 2002 would say about the statements of the Andrew Sullivan of 2008. You can bet, though, that it would have been emphatic, and it would have been furious.

I wanted to address some of the points made by Andrew Sullivan in his response to my piece yesterday.

1. Andrew writes that I “huff and puff” over his comparing Russia invading Georgia with the U.S. invading Iraq and that I “haul out” Andrew’s “own passionate defenses for war as if it’s proof I’m off my rocker.”

Actually, I cited Andrew’s past pieces to demonstrate how dramatically and radically his views have shifted and to remind people that whatever Sullivan believes at the time, he speaks with absolute certitude, with arguments ranging from passionate and intelligent to extreme and careless. Quoting Andrew back to himself was not, by my lights, evidence that he’s “off his rocker.” That Andrew would characterize things that way says more about him, I think, than it does about me.

2. The degree to which President Bush seems to dominate and distort Andrew’s thinking is noteworthy. For example, Russia invaded a lawful, self-governing, pro-American government–and Andrew writes, “I was a little too mad at Bush to express adequate sympathy for the plight of the Georgians at first.” Exactly why Russia’s invasion of Georgia is grounds for fury at George W. Bush isn’t really clear.

3. Despite the fact that Andrew’s views today are fundamentally at odds with his views several years ago, Sullivan can only say, “I was deceived and feel terrible responsibility for my naivete.”

This is a recurring theme. Andrew does not say he was wrong; rather, he says that President Bush deceived him. Andrew, in other words, was guilty of being too trusting. Remember the comedian Flip Wilson? “The devil made me do it”? Andrew’s version (call it a sua culpa) is “The President made me do it.”

4. According to Andrew, “The US invaded [Iraq] without the critical second UN resolution, putting the US outside of the kind of international legitimacy in a way not totally unlike Russia.”

For the record, here’s what Andrew said (on March 18, 2003) about the second UN resolution at the time:

Tony Blair’s speech to the House of Commons this afternoon . . . outlines in excruciating detail exactly what happened in the last couple of weeks. There is no question that it was France that scuppered any deal, any ultimatum, any attempt to get U.N. support for final pressure on Saddam. Not Cheney. Not Wolfowitz. Not Bush. France. [Sullivan then quotes extensively from Prime Minister Blair's speech.] The failure of diplomacy is not the Bush administration’s fault. And the attempt to make that argument must deal with Blair’s chronology. The people of this country see it. It’s the partisan elites who are still blind to reality. [emphasis added]

And the day before, Sullivan quoted Ann Clwyd writing this in the Times of London:

I do not have a monopoly on wisdom or morality. But I know one thing. This evil, fascist regime must come to an end. With or without the help of the Security Council, and with or without the backing of the Labour Party in the House of Commons tonight.

Andrew went on to add:

This would be true even if Iraq were not already in violation of umpteen U.N. resolutions. It would be true even if Saddam didn’t pose a genuine threat to the region and, via terrorists, to the West itself. How much more morally indefensible is appeasement when we also have complete international authority to do what must be done? I think we will look back in the future and not ask, as so many now are, how it was that diplomacy didn’t get unanimity on this matter. We will look back and see the moral obtuseness of Chirac and Putin and Schroder [sic] and Carter and feel nothing but contempt for them, and their preference for state terror over the responsibilities of the free world. That’s why I felt enormous pride tonight in the stand being taken by Blair and Bush. The president’s speech was measured, firm, just. Blair’s political risks – in order to do what he believes is plainly right – will confirm him in history as a great prime minister, the conscience of his party, and the leader of his country. I say that before this war begins, because the cause is just whatever vicissitudes of conflict await us, and there will be plenty of people who will make this point if and when the war succeeds. But the truth is, regardless of what happens next, we know something important about the two major leaders of the free world right now. Neither man has blinked at evil. The only question in the next forty-eight hours is whether evil will blink before it is destroyed. [emphasis added]

5. As for the argument that failing to secure a second UN resolution prior to war undermined America’s legitimacy: President Clinton’s director of Central Intelligence, James Woolsey, has pointed out that, in more than a half-century, the U.N. has sanctioned only two wars out of the 100-plus wars that have been fought. These were the first Gulf War, and the Korean War–with the latter an anomaly, since the Soviet Union boycotted the Security Council vote. Presumably Andrew does not believe that all the wars that have occurred without the blessing of the U.N. were illegitimate and akin to Russia’s invasion of Georgia.

The proposition that because the second U.N. resolution failed due to (in Andrew’s words) “the moral obtuseness of Chirac and Putin and Schroder,” the liberation of Iraq is “not totally unlike” what Russia did to Georgia is an example of Andrew reaching for strained arguments in an effort to try to justify his current, completely different position.

6. Sullivan writes, “I have come to see, by force of the evidence, that some, if not all, in the Bush administration knew that the WMD case was paper-thin.”

In fact, the evidence makes the opposite case. I base that judgment in part on the findings of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s bipartisan Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq, and the Silberman-Robb Report (The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction), both of which shatter the claim made by Sullivan. In fact, the latter said this:

As problematic as the October 2002 NIE was, it was not the Community’s biggest analytic failure on Iraq. Even more misleading was the river of intelligence that flowed from the CIA to top policymakers over long periods of time — in the President’s Daily Brief (PDB) and in its more widely distributed companion, the Senior Executive Intelligence Brief (SEIB). These daily reports were, if anything, more alarmist and less nuanced than the NIE.” (emphasis added)

And this:

The Intelligence Community’s Iraq assessments were … riddled with errors. Contrary to what some defenders of the Intelligence Community have since asserted, these errors were not the result of a few harried months in 2002. Most of the fundamental errors were made and communicated to policymakers well before the now-infamous NIE of October 2002, and were not corrected in the months between the NIE and the start of the war. They were not isolated or random failings. Iraq had been an intelligence challenge at the forefront of U.S. attention for over a decade. It was a known adversary that had already fought one war with the United States and seemed increasingly likely to fight another. But, after ten years of effort, the Intelligence Community still had no good intelligence on the status of Iraq’s weapons programs.

Andrew might also want to consult this column by Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor of the Washington Post, which eviscerates what he calls the “phony ‘Bush lied’ story line.” That Iraq possessed WMD was a view shared by Democrats as well as Republicans; by the U.N. as well as the U.S.; by American intelligence agencies and by intelligence agencies of almost every nation that looked into this matter.

7. About the Iraq war, Sullivan writes:

When you add to this [Sullivan's contention that the Bush Administration wanted to do to the Arabs what Putin is now doing to his neighbors: teach them a lesson about raw power] the deployment of torture and abuse of countless innocent Iraqis as a weapon, the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis, the displacement of millions more, the ethnic cleansing the US presided over for years, it does become harder and harder to see the unquestionable moral superiority of the US. Certainly, it seems much more questionable than ever before in my lifetime.

It seems to me the Iraq war makes precisely the opposite point. It was animated in part–not wholly, but in part–by a humanitarian impulse, which Sullivan understood at the time. And the truth is that we were, as the New York Times’s John Burns has said, greeted as liberators. The problem is that for a variety of reasons–having largely but not exclusively to do with a massive mistake in the Phase IV planning by the Bush Administration–Iraq turned violent and chaotic. But the President, to his great credit, embraced the surge, which is in the process of transforming Iraq. It is now a free, self-governing nation, an ally of America, and the place which gave rise to an anti-jihadist movement within the Muslim world. It is also the place where al Qaeda, having declared it the central battleground in the war on terror, has been routed. The same thing appears to be happening to the Mahdi Army and the Shiite militias. And Iran’s influence is clearly waning.

Former Ambassador Peter Galbraith said that Saddam’s regime was, along with Pol Pot’s in Cambodia, one of the two cruelest in the last half of the 20th century. The fact that the people of Iraq have been freed from almost unimaginable oppression and are now–after extremely difficult and painful years–on a path to a decent society ought to make Sullivan proud of his country, not call into question its “moral superiority.”

The fact is that America, instead of having bled and fled Iraq, fought and stayed. We continued to fight the good fight. The men and women of the United States military and their families have borne the burden; more than 4,000 have died in this effort and many more have been badly injured and maimed. And to suggest that the enormousness of their sacrifice was for a less than noble cause–and even an ignoble one–is, I think, deeply mistaken and even offensive.

8. For Andrew, almost everything comes back to the Bush Administration’s policies on interrogation and water-boarding, Guantanamo Bay, rendition, and whether the Geneva Conventions ought to apply to non-state actors and terrorists.

Jack Goldsmith, the former head of the Office of Legal Counsel, is an example of a person who has made a highly critical but reasonable assessment of the Bush Administration’s policies. His book The Terror Presidency offers a nuanced, learned analysis of these issues and places them within a historical context. Goldsmith is fair-minded in presenting the arguments for and against various policies. This kind of subtlety and sophistication is completely missing in Andrew’s critiques. That doesn’t mean the Bush Administration was right on all these issues; as I have said before, I think in some important respects we made the wrong decision. But Andrew allows this to so cloud his judgment that he now states that because of the Bush Administration he now doubts “the core moral decency of the US” and believes that “the question of moral equivalence [between the United States and Russia] becomes a live one.”

That Sullivan has reached the point that his attitudes toward America now sound like those that routinely emerge from the fever swamps of the Left is a shame; and for him to say that “this administration has done it to me” is a transparent dodge. Sullivan’s fundamental worldview has changed, as any fair reading of his past writings demonstrate, and for reasons that go far beyond George W. Bush.

One can only image what the Andrew Sullivan of 2002 would say about the statements of the Andrew Sullivan of 2008. You can bet, though, that it would have been emphatic, and it would have been furious.

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From Russia with Bile

Say this for the Russian regime. It may be composed of thugs, crooks, and liars, but its supporters and officials sure do have a way with words. My op-ed in the Los Angeles Times yesterday (entitled “Stand Up to Russia”) has brought this witty response from Pravda. The whole thing is worth reading for a laugh. But as a public service I hereby excerpt some of the best bits:

[T]his two-page schmuckfest of unadulterated bilge . . . could almost have been printed by the British Bullshit Corporation or written by that other insolent female who got a Pulitzer. . . . Paragraph after paragraph of lies, fabrications and insults more befitting of a latrine wall, written by some demented retard with his own excrement, than in the pages of what I thought (until last night) was a reputable publication. I mean, what an eye opener. . . . Max Boot calls Russia’s crossing into Georgia a violation of international law. So what does he have to say about the USA’s act of criminal agression [sic] and mass murder in Iraq? What does he have to say about the deployment of WMD in civilian areas? What does he have to say about the massacre of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians? What does he have to say about the concentration camp at Guantanamo, which brings back flashes of Belsen, Treblinka and Dachau, or the innumerous concentration and extermination camps in the Baltic States?

Ironically, the author of this love note complains that “vapid claptrap” like my article is an indication that “it is virtually impossible for any US citizen to have a balanced idea of world events. The citizens of the USA are being misinformed, lied to and made clowns of by their own media.” Actually, it’s Russians who are being snowed under by their government-controlled media (of which Pravda is one organ among many others). Voice of America reports:

William Dunbar is a British citizen who worked as Tbilisi correspondent for Russia Today, Moscow’s international English-language television service. Dunbar resigned his position Saturday when the broadcaster refused to air his reports after he informed viewers on live TV that Russian warplanes had bombed the central Georgian city of Gori.

“I felt that I could no longer work for them because there was no real way hat I could be able to report the facts, and they did not really want to now what was really going on in Georgia if it did not sort of fit with the agenda that they were trying to put out,” Dunbar said.

The line the Kremlin is feeding its people can be glimpsed in this op-ed in today’s Financial Times by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. He claims “there is . . . clear evidence” that Georgia has committed”atrocities” that are “so serious and systematic that they constitute acts of genocide.” Who knew that Georgia had committed genocide? But if the Baltic states can be guilty of running “concentration and extermination camps,” there’s no reason why Georgia cannot be guilty of even more heinous offenses–at least in the vivid Russian imagination.

“There can be little surprise, therefore, that Russia responded to this unprovoked assault on its citizens by launching a military incursion into South Ossetia,” Lavrov continues, as if Russian troops and its Ossetian puppets have not been goading Georgia for years by incursions into its territory (which, by the way, still includes Abkhazia and South Ossetia, not recognized as independent states by any other country). The notion that Russia cares about the fate of ethnic minorities in the Caucasus is particularly rich, given the way Russian troops razed Grozny and killed tens of thousands of people in their vicious campaign to retain control of Chechnya.

Lavrov goes on: “Despite Georgia’s assertion that it had imposed a unilateral ceasefire, Russian peacekeepers and supporting troops remained under continued attack–a fact confirmed by observers and journalists in the region.” Of course, what the bulk of “observers and journalists” say is precisely the opposite–that the Georgians tried to stop fighting but the Russians wouldn’t stop their attacks. Even now that Russia has announced a ceasefire, reports from Georgia indicate that its troops continue attacking.

It should be no surprise that Russian spokesmen are masters of the Big Lie–their Soviet predecessors practically invented the technique. What continues to depress and annoy me is how many well-intentioned Westerners are falling for the Russian line that it was really the Georgians who were the aggressors here.

Say this for the Russian regime. It may be composed of thugs, crooks, and liars, but its supporters and officials sure do have a way with words. My op-ed in the Los Angeles Times yesterday (entitled “Stand Up to Russia”) has brought this witty response from Pravda. The whole thing is worth reading for a laugh. But as a public service I hereby excerpt some of the best bits:

[T]his two-page schmuckfest of unadulterated bilge . . . could almost have been printed by the British Bullshit Corporation or written by that other insolent female who got a Pulitzer. . . . Paragraph after paragraph of lies, fabrications and insults more befitting of a latrine wall, written by some demented retard with his own excrement, than in the pages of what I thought (until last night) was a reputable publication. I mean, what an eye opener. . . . Max Boot calls Russia’s crossing into Georgia a violation of international law. So what does he have to say about the USA’s act of criminal agression [sic] and mass murder in Iraq? What does he have to say about the deployment of WMD in civilian areas? What does he have to say about the massacre of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians? What does he have to say about the concentration camp at Guantanamo, which brings back flashes of Belsen, Treblinka and Dachau, or the innumerous concentration and extermination camps in the Baltic States?

Ironically, the author of this love note complains that “vapid claptrap” like my article is an indication that “it is virtually impossible for any US citizen to have a balanced idea of world events. The citizens of the USA are being misinformed, lied to and made clowns of by their own media.” Actually, it’s Russians who are being snowed under by their government-controlled media (of which Pravda is one organ among many others). Voice of America reports:

William Dunbar is a British citizen who worked as Tbilisi correspondent for Russia Today, Moscow’s international English-language television service. Dunbar resigned his position Saturday when the broadcaster refused to air his reports after he informed viewers on live TV that Russian warplanes had bombed the central Georgian city of Gori.

“I felt that I could no longer work for them because there was no real way hat I could be able to report the facts, and they did not really want to now what was really going on in Georgia if it did not sort of fit with the agenda that they were trying to put out,” Dunbar said.

The line the Kremlin is feeding its people can be glimpsed in this op-ed in today’s Financial Times by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. He claims “there is . . . clear evidence” that Georgia has committed”atrocities” that are “so serious and systematic that they constitute acts of genocide.” Who knew that Georgia had committed genocide? But if the Baltic states can be guilty of running “concentration and extermination camps,” there’s no reason why Georgia cannot be guilty of even more heinous offenses–at least in the vivid Russian imagination.

“There can be little surprise, therefore, that Russia responded to this unprovoked assault on its citizens by launching a military incursion into South Ossetia,” Lavrov continues, as if Russian troops and its Ossetian puppets have not been goading Georgia for years by incursions into its territory (which, by the way, still includes Abkhazia and South Ossetia, not recognized as independent states by any other country). The notion that Russia cares about the fate of ethnic minorities in the Caucasus is particularly rich, given the way Russian troops razed Grozny and killed tens of thousands of people in their vicious campaign to retain control of Chechnya.

Lavrov goes on: “Despite Georgia’s assertion that it had imposed a unilateral ceasefire, Russian peacekeepers and supporting troops remained under continued attack–a fact confirmed by observers and journalists in the region.” Of course, what the bulk of “observers and journalists” say is precisely the opposite–that the Georgians tried to stop fighting but the Russians wouldn’t stop their attacks. Even now that Russia has announced a ceasefire, reports from Georgia indicate that its troops continue attacking.

It should be no surprise that Russian spokesmen are masters of the Big Lie–their Soviet predecessors practically invented the technique. What continues to depress and annoy me is how many well-intentioned Westerners are falling for the Russian line that it was really the Georgians who were the aggressors here.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Not everyone in the blogosphere is insane.

So much for “saving the planet.” Nancy Pelosi needs to save her skin.

Sounds plausible. After all, why would the Clinton team hold back if they had very effective oppo?

The Hillary Clinton supporters are not going away quietly.

Now there’s a good ad–why aren’t more Republicans running them?

No one is really buying the New Politics thing anymore, I guess. Negative ads, private financing, and 527′s– wasn’t this the Old Politics he opposed?

Barack Obama’s quest for universal adulation is misguided: would they cheer for him in Tbilisi? International popularity simply isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. And by straddling both sides you don’t even impress Americans.

A blow to Obama’s pretensions of being a bipartisan trailblazer. (Some enterprising reporter should ask Chuck Hagel whether it was something on that trip of theirs that changed his mind.) When a defeated Iowa Congressman (Jim Leach) is the best Republican he can come up with it may be confirmation that his peers don’t think too highly of The One.

If Michelle Obama is her husband’s most important advisor, it seems all of her views, associations, and earmark requests are fair game. That’s the standard for John McCain’s staff, isn’t it?

The press is oh-so-worried about Obama — they might have to be tougher on him and he might not be up to it. Embarassing. (h/t Kevin Williamson)

McCain can only hope there is a uniform, a song, and secret handshake to go along with it. The most revealing part: the grudging realization that there will be “resistance.” Alas, not everyone is of the body.

Cognitive dissonance alert. (Psst: it’s not just Obama.)

But then, who the heck knows anything or really cares about Georgia? Just a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing.

In case you were holding out hope that this is a post-racial election, think again. If real voters get wind of this sort of stuff it can’t be a help to The One. The prospect of four or eight years of this sort of tripe may be too much for the average well-meaning voter to bear. (You don’t think it would end if he were elected, do you?)

Someone should break the news to Al From: “The antiwar people cannot define the Democratic Party.”

Another reason to hate the airlines.

Is Obama too clever?

Not everyone in the blogosphere is insane.

So much for “saving the planet.” Nancy Pelosi needs to save her skin.

Sounds plausible. After all, why would the Clinton team hold back if they had very effective oppo?

The Hillary Clinton supporters are not going away quietly.

Now there’s a good ad–why aren’t more Republicans running them?

No one is really buying the New Politics thing anymore, I guess. Negative ads, private financing, and 527′s– wasn’t this the Old Politics he opposed?

Barack Obama’s quest for universal adulation is misguided: would they cheer for him in Tbilisi? International popularity simply isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. And by straddling both sides you don’t even impress Americans.

A blow to Obama’s pretensions of being a bipartisan trailblazer. (Some enterprising reporter should ask Chuck Hagel whether it was something on that trip of theirs that changed his mind.) When a defeated Iowa Congressman (Jim Leach) is the best Republican he can come up with it may be confirmation that his peers don’t think too highly of The One.

If Michelle Obama is her husband’s most important advisor, it seems all of her views, associations, and earmark requests are fair game. That’s the standard for John McCain’s staff, isn’t it?

The press is oh-so-worried about Obama — they might have to be tougher on him and he might not be up to it. Embarassing. (h/t Kevin Williamson)

McCain can only hope there is a uniform, a song, and secret handshake to go along with it. The most revealing part: the grudging realization that there will be “resistance.” Alas, not everyone is of the body.

Cognitive dissonance alert. (Psst: it’s not just Obama.)

But then, who the heck knows anything or really cares about Georgia? Just a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing.

In case you were holding out hope that this is a post-racial election, think again. If real voters get wind of this sort of stuff it can’t be a help to The One. The prospect of four or eight years of this sort of tripe may be too much for the average well-meaning voter to bear. (You don’t think it would end if he were elected, do you?)

Someone should break the news to Al From: “The antiwar people cannot define the Democratic Party.”

Another reason to hate the airlines.

Is Obama too clever?

Read Less

What Did We Reject?

Following up on my piece from last week, I wanted to note the interesting news story my friend Aluf Benn has in this morning’s Haaretz. According to it,

The American administration has rejected an Israeli request for military equipment and support that would improve Israel’s ability to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities

The Americans viewed the request, which was transmitted (and rejected) at the highest level, as a sign that Israel is in the advanced stages of preparations to attack Iran. They therefore warned Israel against attacking, saying such a strike would undermine American interests. They also demanded that Israel give them prior notice if it nevertheless decided to strike Iran.

The fact that the U.S. opposes an Israeli attack at this point is well known. Defense Minister Ehud Barak even publicly confirmed it in a radio interview this morning (Barak himself is a member of the more reluctant camp regarding such attack).

Benn writes, “Israel responded by saying it reserves the right to take whatever action it deems necessary if diplomatic efforts to halt Iran’s nuclearization fail.” I think the Israeli leaders mean what they say. The two countries are playing their parts here exactly as expected: Israel needs to show justification for a potential strike in the failure of the world to stop Iran’s nuclear program. The U.S. needs to show the world that it’s making an effort to prevent escalation.

The U.S. can, in fact, only benefit from publicly shunning Israel on this issue. This would prove that the American pledge to stick to diplomatic means is credible and reduce the risk of retaliation against the U.S. in case such an attack occurs (Iran might claim that the American position is a posture rather than a genuine position, but maybe some damage can be avoided).

In my previous post I highlighted the difference between Israel’s technical need for American consent–a strike would be much more complicated without it–and Israel’s essential decision about attacking Iran. The news report today belongs more to the practical-obstacles department, and one thing should be noted: we don’t know what it was that the Americans wouldn’t give Israel, and whether it was something whose lack would make attacking Iran impossible, or just more difficult.

Following up on my piece from last week, I wanted to note the interesting news story my friend Aluf Benn has in this morning’s Haaretz. According to it,

The American administration has rejected an Israeli request for military equipment and support that would improve Israel’s ability to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities

The Americans viewed the request, which was transmitted (and rejected) at the highest level, as a sign that Israel is in the advanced stages of preparations to attack Iran. They therefore warned Israel against attacking, saying such a strike would undermine American interests. They also demanded that Israel give them prior notice if it nevertheless decided to strike Iran.

The fact that the U.S. opposes an Israeli attack at this point is well known. Defense Minister Ehud Barak even publicly confirmed it in a radio interview this morning (Barak himself is a member of the more reluctant camp regarding such attack).

Benn writes, “Israel responded by saying it reserves the right to take whatever action it deems necessary if diplomatic efforts to halt Iran’s nuclearization fail.” I think the Israeli leaders mean what they say. The two countries are playing their parts here exactly as expected: Israel needs to show justification for a potential strike in the failure of the world to stop Iran’s nuclear program. The U.S. needs to show the world that it’s making an effort to prevent escalation.

The U.S. can, in fact, only benefit from publicly shunning Israel on this issue. This would prove that the American pledge to stick to diplomatic means is credible and reduce the risk of retaliation against the U.S. in case such an attack occurs (Iran might claim that the American position is a posture rather than a genuine position, but maybe some damage can be avoided).

In my previous post I highlighted the difference between Israel’s technical need for American consent–a strike would be much more complicated without it–and Israel’s essential decision about attacking Iran. The news report today belongs more to the practical-obstacles department, and one thing should be noted: we don’t know what it was that the Americans wouldn’t give Israel, and whether it was something whose lack would make attacking Iran impossible, or just more difficult.

Read Less

A Magnificent Suggestion

There is much I disagree with in Peter Beinart’s piece on racial preferences, but he makes one excellent suggestion. He urges Barack Obama to call “for the replacement of race-based preferences with class-based ones.” He explains:

That would confront head-on white fears that an Obama administration would favor minorities at whites’ expense. It would be a sharper, more dramatic, way of making the point that Obama has made ever since he took the national stage (but which some whites still refuse to believe): that he represents not racial division but national unity.

This is smart on multiple levels. First, whenever race-based preferences are put to the test of the ballot box, voters reject them (e.g. the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, California’s Prop. 209). Again and again Americans have expressed their belief that it is fundamentally wrong to treat citizens differently according to their race. And aside from the Constitutional and fairness concerns, there is now increasingly voluminous literature (see here, for example) that racial preferences do not help the intended beneficiaries. So it would be a smart policy and a popular move.

But more than that, Beinart is on to something fundamentally more important from the perspective of Obama’s candidacy. Obama really hasn’t lived up to his billing as a post-racial candidate. He never satisfactorily explained his long-time association with his hate-mongering preacher. And worse still, he foolishly resorted to playing racial victim with no provocation. His media supporters haven’t helped matters any with wild accusations of implied racism behind every word and snippet of campaign film and the implicit promise that Obama’s critics will forever be labeled as racists. If he is not in fact the captive of the racial victimization industry, there is no better way to demonstrate it than by rejecting racial preferences.

And even beyond race, it would signal for the first time that Obama can stand up to his left-wing base. Other than retreat on Iraq, a strict pro-choice stance and stringent environmentalism, there is probably nothing dearer to the Left than the perpetuation of racial set asides, preferences and the like. If he can stand up to them on this, it bodes well for his ability to truly navigate a new political course for his party and the country as a whole. He can forever put aside the notion that he’s nothing more than a conventional ultra-liberal.

Now it would be another flip-flop. It’s true he cut an appallingly misleading ad in opposition to the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. It is also true that he excoriated John McCain for favoring a similar measure in Arizona. But really. The man has changed on virtually everything else. He might as well take the plunge on something that really matters.

Will he? I am very doubtful. But I hold out hope.

There is much I disagree with in Peter Beinart’s piece on racial preferences, but he makes one excellent suggestion. He urges Barack Obama to call “for the replacement of race-based preferences with class-based ones.” He explains:

That would confront head-on white fears that an Obama administration would favor minorities at whites’ expense. It would be a sharper, more dramatic, way of making the point that Obama has made ever since he took the national stage (but which some whites still refuse to believe): that he represents not racial division but national unity.

This is smart on multiple levels. First, whenever race-based preferences are put to the test of the ballot box, voters reject them (e.g. the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, California’s Prop. 209). Again and again Americans have expressed their belief that it is fundamentally wrong to treat citizens differently according to their race. And aside from the Constitutional and fairness concerns, there is now increasingly voluminous literature (see here, for example) that racial preferences do not help the intended beneficiaries. So it would be a smart policy and a popular move.

But more than that, Beinart is on to something fundamentally more important from the perspective of Obama’s candidacy. Obama really hasn’t lived up to his billing as a post-racial candidate. He never satisfactorily explained his long-time association with his hate-mongering preacher. And worse still, he foolishly resorted to playing racial victim with no provocation. His media supporters haven’t helped matters any with wild accusations of implied racism behind every word and snippet of campaign film and the implicit promise that Obama’s critics will forever be labeled as racists. If he is not in fact the captive of the racial victimization industry, there is no better way to demonstrate it than by rejecting racial preferences.

And even beyond race, it would signal for the first time that Obama can stand up to his left-wing base. Other than retreat on Iraq, a strict pro-choice stance and stringent environmentalism, there is probably nothing dearer to the Left than the perpetuation of racial set asides, preferences and the like. If he can stand up to them on this, it bodes well for his ability to truly navigate a new political course for his party and the country as a whole. He can forever put aside the notion that he’s nothing more than a conventional ultra-liberal.

Now it would be another flip-flop. It’s true he cut an appallingly misleading ad in opposition to the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. It is also true that he excoriated John McCain for favoring a similar measure in Arizona. But really. The man has changed on virtually everything else. He might as well take the plunge on something that really matters.

Will he? I am very doubtful. But I hold out hope.

Read Less

No, He Can’t

Maureen Dowd is bemoaning the fact that the Denver Convention is more about Hillary and Bill Clinton than Barack Obama. She writes:

Now they’ve made Barry’s convention all about them — their dissatisfaction and revisionism and barely disguised desire to see him fail. Whatever insincere words of support the Clintons muster, their primal scream gets louder: He can’t win! He can’t close the deal! We told you so!

But there’s a reason why the Clintons are getting away with it: the nominee, it turns out, has the very flaws which the Clintons tried to point out to the Obama-infatuted primary electorate. Had he put those concerns to rest by rallying the base, rather than rallying a Berlin crowd, the Clintons wouldn’t have much room to maneuver.

And what’s more, it turns out he hasn’t been a very good negotiator. After all, he is the nominee, yet he seems to have given his adversaries everything they want. No surprise to find out that he’s been eaten alive by the Venus flytraps of the Democratic Party.

Dowd concedes:

The Clintons know that a lot of Democrats are muttering that their solipsistic behavior is “disgusting.” But they’re too filled with delicious schadenfreude at the wave of buyer’s remorse that has swept the Democrat Party; many Democrats are questioning whether Obama is fighting back hard enough against McCain, and many are wondering, given his inability to open up a lead in a country fed up with Republicans, if race will be an insurmountable factor.

So it may be cathartic, to borrow a phrase, to rail against the Clintons. But who really is to blame for the fix in which Obama finds himself? He hasn’t inspired much confidence in the political diplomacy department. He hasn’t contained an aggressive opponent, hasn’t wooed her (with fundraising help or a VP slot), and hasn’t dispensed with her (by calling her bluff and refusing to give the Clintons two nights of his convention). Instead, he gave her the propaganda platform she craves. Not exactly a good sign for his ability to deal with real enemies. (Rogue state leaders: are you taking notes?)

It seems that sometimes there are people who simply can’t be charmed. Maybe Obama will finally learn about the limits of his powers of personal persuasion.

Maureen Dowd is bemoaning the fact that the Denver Convention is more about Hillary and Bill Clinton than Barack Obama. She writes:

Now they’ve made Barry’s convention all about them — their dissatisfaction and revisionism and barely disguised desire to see him fail. Whatever insincere words of support the Clintons muster, their primal scream gets louder: He can’t win! He can’t close the deal! We told you so!

But there’s a reason why the Clintons are getting away with it: the nominee, it turns out, has the very flaws which the Clintons tried to point out to the Obama-infatuted primary electorate. Had he put those concerns to rest by rallying the base, rather than rallying a Berlin crowd, the Clintons wouldn’t have much room to maneuver.

And what’s more, it turns out he hasn’t been a very good negotiator. After all, he is the nominee, yet he seems to have given his adversaries everything they want. No surprise to find out that he’s been eaten alive by the Venus flytraps of the Democratic Party.

Dowd concedes:

The Clintons know that a lot of Democrats are muttering that their solipsistic behavior is “disgusting.” But they’re too filled with delicious schadenfreude at the wave of buyer’s remorse that has swept the Democrat Party; many Democrats are questioning whether Obama is fighting back hard enough against McCain, and many are wondering, given his inability to open up a lead in a country fed up with Republicans, if race will be an insurmountable factor.

So it may be cathartic, to borrow a phrase, to rail against the Clintons. But who really is to blame for the fix in which Obama finds himself? He hasn’t inspired much confidence in the political diplomacy department. He hasn’t contained an aggressive opponent, hasn’t wooed her (with fundraising help or a VP slot), and hasn’t dispensed with her (by calling her bluff and refusing to give the Clintons two nights of his convention). Instead, he gave her the propaganda platform she craves. Not exactly a good sign for his ability to deal with real enemies. (Rogue state leaders: are you taking notes?)

It seems that sometimes there are people who simply can’t be charmed. Maybe Obama will finally learn about the limits of his powers of personal persuasion.

Read Less




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